House panel OKs bill to overhaul oil drilling agency, slow its revolving door with industry

By Frederic J. Frommer, AP
Thursday, July 15, 2010

House panel OKs overhaul of oil drilling agency

WASHINGTON — A House panel approved legislation Thursday that would overhaul the government agency responsible for regulating offshore drilling.

The bill would divide the agency into three parts: one for leasing and permitting; another for inspections and investigations; and a third to collect revenue. It also seeks to clamp down on the revolving door between government and industry by adding a two-year ban on offshore drilling regulators taking jobs with certain companies.

The House Natural Resources Committee passed the bill Thursday 27-21, with most Democrats supporting it and all Republicans opposed.

Committee chairman Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat, said the Gulf of Mexico oil spill demonstrates that “there is very little room for error” when it comes to oil rig safety.

Also Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation aimed at preventing another oil spill blowout. The legislation requires an oil company’s CEO to attest that the company will have a working blowout preventer, an appropriate and effective spill response plan, and the capacity to promptly drill a relief well, and will use a safe well design. Among other things, the bill also increases standards for things like testing, inspections and third-party certification of blowout preventers.

The vote was 48-0, with one member, Arizona Republican John Shadegg, voting “present.”

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